Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin | Review

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Release Date: August 11, 2015

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5


For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense. In Julia Heaberlin’s new breakout novel, Tessa is the sole survivor of a serial killer’s attacks. She thought the monster of her nightmares had been imprisoned – but she now has reason to believe he’s back to finish what he started nearly two decades earlier. Might an innocent man have been convicted—and can Tessa find the true killer before he strikes again?

17-year-old Tessa, dubbed a ’Black-Eyed Susan’ by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars—or so she thought. Now, decades later, the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa’s bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison. As the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to wonder: Did she help convict the wrong man? Haunted by her fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her teenage daughter’s safety, she must uncover the truth about the killer who altered the course of her life.

Black-Eyed Susans was not on my radar until I read Rachel from The Reader’s Den’s review of it. Then I saw that it’s for fans of Gone Girl; that’s when I knew I had to pick it up. I read Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train earlier this year and loved them both, so I figured, why not give Black-Eyed Susans a try? Adult psychological thrillers definitely seem to be working out for me as of late. Alas, while this story isn’t as exciting as the other two books I read this year, it is still a decent read.


Truth be told, the first couple of chapters had me spooked. Black-Eyed Susans is essentially a murder mystery and Tessa has no recollection of the night of the incident. My blanket was up to my chin because I was so creeped out. But as the story goes along, nothing significant actually happens.

The majority of this novel takes place during Tessa’s therapy sessions where she’s trying to recall what happened, and it’s pretty dull. The other half takes place present day, nearly two decades later. Collectively, the pacing of the story is incredibly slow, and I had to push myself to keep reading because I was still curious.


An aspect I really enjoyed about Black-Eyed Susans that other psychological thrillers don’t delve into was the forensics, genetic material, and political justice aspects in crime. Heaberlin goes all out with the cool DNA forensics and I thought that made the story stand out in its own way. I always appreciate when authors take the extra time to do research about a topic and share their knowledge in the story.


I wasn’t gripped until the last 15% or so of the story, where the mystery begins to reveal itself. The way Heaberlin plays out the mystery is pretty fascinating especially because I felt like nothing really happened in the story, but the reader gains knowledge slowly in bits and pieces that do come together in the end. Although, I am pretty shocked about who the killer ends up being because hardly any hints are dropped throughout the story (maybe I’m just really unobservant, who knows). Thus said, the conclusion isn’t entirely believable for me just because the killer is kind of random and it seems like the author just doesn’t want the reader to be able to guess who the killer is. I suppose I had my suspicions about a character, but was wrong.


So Black-Eyed Susans has its faults and good moments; what I really learned from this story is that people do crazy things for attention. *shudders* While the pacing is slow for the majority of the novel and the conclusion isn’t 100% satisfactory, the author goes in-depth with the law and justice of Texas, DNA forensics, and overall crime-solving that I really appreciate. Black-Eyed Susans isn’t on par with Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, but I can see readers who enjoyed those will enjoy Black-Eyed Susans.


9 thoughts on “Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin | Review”

  1. It’s too bad this one has such a strong beginning only to fizzle for nearly the rest of the book! I’d much rather something start out slow and build than start out brilliantly and then taper off. Still, I’m glad the last 15% was gripping and that the forensics element was really well done:) Thanks for you thoughts on this one Jen!


  2. It’s too bad that this didn’t continue being awesome after such a strong start! I had very high hopes for it. I would be interested in the police procedural parts, but otherwise, I’m not sure I’d want to read this. At least those final 15% redeemed it to an extent. Thanks for the lovely review, Jen!


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